Tuesday, January 03, 2006
Happy New Year Catch-Up Time. Abramoff Pleads Guilty! Blue Jays Make Some Hay.
Happy New Year. After a whirlwind of holiday activity that included re-bonding with my three-and-a-half year old nephew (who, by the way is the odds-on favorite for American League Rookie of the Year in 2025) I'm back at the terminal and ready to examine some of the latest news.
As if Preznit Flight Suit Fantasy wasn't in enough trouble over his illegal wire-tapping program (funny that the "exposing" of this program was a "shameful act" while his office's having revealed of Valerie Plame as a covert operative to the same news outlet that reported his latest malfeasance is just swell.), Jack Abramoff, with his guilty plea to bribery and corruption charges, becomes yet another albatross around Dumbya's twisted neck.
Here's the Yahoo News AP wire excerpt detailing the potential damage Abramoff's plea could yield:
WASHINGTON - The plea deal worked out by Jack Abramoff could send seismic waves across the political landscape in this congressional election year. The Republicans, who control Congress and the White House, are likely to take the biggest hits.
The GOP has more seats to lose and has closer ties with the former lobbyist. But some Democrats with links to Abramoff and his associates are also expected to be snagged in the influence-peddling net.
While the full dimensions of the corruption probe are not yet clear, some political consultants and analysts are already comparing its damage potential to the 1992 House banking scandal that led to the retirement or ouster of 77 lawmakers.
"You don't have to be a political genius to sniff the smell of blood in the water," said GOP consultant Rich Galen. Galen said even lawmakers in seemingly safe districts, and those "who don't have a reputation for being fast and loose with the rules," could be vulnerable if voters rise up in reproach "and everybody drops five or six points" in this year's midterm contests.
Abramoff, a former $100,000-plus fundraiser for President Bush, with close ties to former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, pleaded guilty on Tuesday to conspiracy, tax evasion and mail fraud. That cleared the way for his cooperation with federal prosecutors in bringing charges against former business and political associates.
The investigation is believed to involve up to 20 members of Congress and aides and possibly several administration officials.
The timing couldn't be worse, politically, especially for Republicans. Lawmakers who may be indicted could find themselves coming to trial this summer, just ahead of the midterm elections. Around the same time, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, is expected to stand trial in the CIA leak case.
DeLay, who had to step down as majority leader in September after a grand jury in Texas indicted him in a campaign finance investigation, is awaiting a trial date. And former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham, R-Calif., gave up his seat Dec. 1 after admitting he had accepted $2.4 million in bribes from defense contractors.
With so many trials and prosecutions in the works, speculation is swirling over whom Abramoff might bring down and on the possible fallout for others.
Well, how about the prominently mentioned in this piece Tom DeLay and Bill Frist for starters? Those punks deserve to get rolled for whatever the traffic will bear. I'm going to enjoy watching this drama play out as the rats attempt to desert this sinking ship of corruption and greed.
On to the National Pastime. Now that the Red Sox have apparently decided to surrender the 2006 season, it seems that the Toronto Blue Jays have stepped up by signing/trading for some borderline stars/impact players.
First, they signed Marlins starting pitcher AJ Burnett. And yes, they overpaid for a guy with a losing lifetime record, but they are, as the Red Sox did with Matt Clement when THEY overpaid HIM for last season, on Burnett's "stuff". He throws hard, and can be nasty. He just seems to lack the consistency needed to blossom into an 18-20 game winner. I don't see how coming into the AL East, with the potent Red Sox, Oriole and Yankee lineups the Jays will face 57 times will help him straighten himself out, but, you never know.
Then, the Jays plucked Orioles closer BJ Ryan (do you see a trend developing here with no first names, just initials?). And, yes, they also overpaid him, but Ryan, always nasty as a setup man was just as nasty as a closer, and he is death to any lefty batter not named David Ortiz, so this move seems like an upgrade over the inconsistent Miguel Batista.
Speaking of Batista, he is going back to Arizona, the club he helped beat the Yankees in the 2001 World Series as part of a trade for third baseman Troy Glaus. Also part of the deal was second baseman Orlando Hudson, who plays the pivot position like Frank White did for the Royals in the late 70s-80s. The Jays will miss Hudson's energy, but the odds-on favorite to replace him, Aaron Hill, who hit like a demon against the Red Sox, looks like he can handle the job in the field. Glaus hit 37 homers in 2005, his first full, healthy season since his 2002 campaign with the Angels the year they won the World Series (and Glaus was named Series MVP). He will be, if he stays healthy, a significant upgrade over Corey Koskie at third base.
The Jays also robbed the Brewers of first baseman Lyle Overbay. Gone to Milwaukee are outfielder Gabe Gross and pitcher David Bush. I never liked Gross. His bat seems slow, and his reactions in the field seem slower, so maybe the Jays will leave Alexis Rios alone and let him blossom into the star he appears ready to become. Bush got belted around pretty hard in 2005, but moving to the NL should help him a little. And sure, the Brewers weren't going to hang on to Overbay with Prince Fielder knocking at the door, but still, you've got to get more bang for your buck than the Brew Crew got in this deal. Hats off to GM PJ Ricciardi (there are those pesky initials again!).
The Jays also signed free agent OF Eric Brynes. Brynes can play all three OF positions, and will likely share time in LF with Reed Johnson. This will allow Frank Catalanotto to be the full time DH.
Projected lineup: 1B - Overbay 2B - Aaron Hill 3B - Glaus SS - Russ Adams LF - Reed Johnson/Eric Byrnes CF - Vernon Wells RF - Alexis Rios C - Greg Zaun
That's not a shabby group to send up to the plate. Adams and Hill have had a year's experience and are likely to improve. Zaun, at 34, had a career year in 2005, so it's not a lock that he can repeat it, but he may not have to with the upgrades in the lineup spots that are likely to bat ahead of him. Add a healthy Roy Halladay to head a starting rotation with Ted Lilly, Josh Towers and Gustavo Chacin combined with a deep bullpen of Jason Frasor, Justin Speier and Scott Schoenweiss to get to the closer Ryan, and the Jays might just upset the balance of power in the American League East in 2006.
Only 48 days until pitchers and catchers report!